Lecture tag: Modern Hinduism

Politics in Action: Gandhi, the Gita, and Modern Times

Majewski Lecture

While the Bhagavad-Gita justifiably receives scholarly attention as an ancient text, its modern history remains little explored. And yet the Gita is arguably the most important text of modern India, with many of the country’s great intellectual and political figures attending to it in new ways from the 19th century. How did the Gita become the key text among such figures to think not about India’s past so much as her present and future? This lecture will consider Gandhi’s lifelong devotion to the Gita as part of a larger project to create a modern political thought for India’s future. Dr Faisal Devji is University Reader in Modern South Asian History. He has held faculty positions at the New School in New York, Yale University and the University of Chicago, from where he also received his PhD in Intellectual History. Devji was Junior Fellow at the Society of Fellows, Harvard University, and Head of Graduate Studies at the Institute of Ismaili Studies in London, from where he directed post-graduate courses in the Near East and Central Asia. He sits on the editorial board of the journal Public Culture. Dr Devji is the author of two books, Landscapes of the Jihad: Militancy, Morality, Modernity (2005), and The Terrorist in Search of Humanity: Militant Islam and Global Politics (2009), and is currently writing a book on the emergence of Muslim politics and the founding of Pakistan. He is interested in the political thought of modern Islam as well as in the transformation of liberal categories and democratic practice in South Asia. Devji’s broader concerns are with ethics and violence in a globalized world, particularly with the thought and practices of Mahatma Gandhi, who was among the earliest and perhaps most perceptive commentator on this predicament of our times.

Swami Vivekananda and the Transformation of Indian Philanthropy

Arising from research towards a history of Indian philanthropy, the lecture examines the influence of Swami Vivekananda. Briefly, the argument is that Indian philanthropy was transformed from its focus on temples and priests (with occasional charity to the poor), to take in “modern” concerns such as schools, hospitals, orphanages and other areas of public interest; and that Swami Vivekananda’s impact prepared the way for the expansion of the ambit of Indian philanthropy to national and international concerns.

In the World but Not of the World: Social Ethics in Early Modern North India

Can a religious practitioner be exempt from performing social duties? Ever since Buddhists and Jains rejected Brahmanical social values, the issue of social ethics for religious practitioners has been a contested topic in South Asia. In this presentation, I examine how Baladeva Vidyabhusana, a Vaishnava theologian in the 18th century, dealt with this topic at the court of Jai Singh II, a famous Rajput king of Jaipur. Kiyokazu Okita obtained his D.Phil. from Faculty of Theology, University of Oxford in 2011. After serving as a lecturer at Department of Religion, University of Florida, he is currently a JSPS post-doctoral research fellow at Department of Indological Studies, Kyoto University, as well as a visiting researcher at Abteilung für Kultur und Geschichte Indiens und Tibets, Universität Hamburg.